Family Roots: A Mother’s Search for Meaning
Marian Shannon Miller Lord
Marian Shannon Miller Lord is a mother with whom I have much in common. Reading her memoir, Family Roots: A Mother’s Search for Meaning, was validating for me. While we come from very different backgrounds, we both shared similar feelings about our experiences with our children, coped in some of the same ways, and our search for meaning followed similar paths.
Shannon died in 2013 and her dying wish was to have her memoir published. Her husband, Larry, saw to it that it was done and Family Roots was published in 2017.
Shannon appears in my memoir, because she had a profound effect on my life. I’m grateful to know more of her story and to have an even closer connection with this kindred spirit.
Broken Open and Marrow
Elizabeth Lesser is one of my favorite human beings and thus one of my favorite authors.
Her book, Broken Open, had a profound effect on my life. Reading it was part of what helped me make sense of my own life. I had the opportunity to tell her that when I participated in writing programs for a week at the Omega Institute.
Most recently, I read Marrow: A Love Story. What I loved most about it was the way she and her sister deepened their relationship … how they got real and authentic with each other and overcame years of misunderstandings and misinterpretations. In the end, their love for each other transcended every barrier.
When Breath Becomes Air
Paul Kalanithi was a talented neurosurgeon with a promising career and a fascination with learning about death. At the age of 36, in the last year of his residency, he was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. He could not miss the irony.
I did not find his memoir, published after his death, easy to read. Yet it is written with the poetry and poignancy of one steeped in classical literature…one who is not afraid to explore the depths of the human experience of living and dying.
Kalanithi takes you into his world of living and becoming a doctor who developed empathy for his patients. He also takes you into his world of living while dying and the agonizing decisions he was forced to make to honor life lived with integrity. His death is a great loss to humanity. His memoir enriches all with the courage to read it.
Confessions of a Latter Day Virgin
Nicole Hardy’s memoir, Confessions of a Latter Day Virgin, is funny and thoughtful as she allows us into her most intimate struggles with remaining faithful to her desire to be a writer and not the homemaker, wife, and mother that is supposed to lead to her eternal reward. As a single Mormon, she risks separation from all she holds dear in order to be true to herself and live a full life that includes expressing herself physically as well as emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually.
Inspired by a professor in her MFA program, “Write what you fear,” Nicole wrote about her struggles with celibacy and read it to a writer’s group of mostly strangers. They received her writing with great enthusiasm and encouraged her to send her essay to Daniel Jones, the New York Times editor of the Modern Love column. He found her essay, “Single, Female, Mormon, Alone” intriguing and published it. It was chosen as “notable” in 2012’s Best American Essays.
Most touching for me was the way her parents struggled to understand and accept their free-thinking daughter’s choices while never withdrawing their love for her, finally realizing the gift she had given to others in their faith just by being her authentic self. Without knowing it, Nicole gave voice to the struggles of many Mormon’s, opening dialogue between parents and children and the church-at-large, creating the possibility of finding a better way of nurturing the singles in their midst.
Two Plus Two is Fear
If you love poetry that is rich and deep and takes you into a woman’s inner world … if you love inspirational memoir that takes you through a journey of overcoming entrenched obstacles, you will love Lynn Robbins’ memoir, Two Plus Two is Fear.
Writing poetry and reading it in public proved to be Lynn’s path out of anxiety. Her creatively-written memoir shows how Lynn refused to be held back by fear and the obstacles that threatened her dream of becoming a published author.
So Many Africas: Six Years in a Zambian Village
When Kandel tried to talk about her experiences as a young bride with a husband so enthralled with his work that he didn’t notice how the squalor they lived in nor how giving birth to children in the most primitive of conditions was affecting her, her church friends didn’t want to hear it. They preferred hearing victorious, happily-ever-after stories, but that wasn’t the story she had to tell. So she closed her mouth and began writing.
It took her fourteen years to write her story. It is written sparingly in an unusual and elegant prose style that is visceral and haunting…just as her life in Africa had been. I highly recommend this compelling story of thriving in the harshest of conditions.
From My Mother
Darcy Leech shows grace and grit in her story about surviving and thriving in a family ravaged by genetic disease. When she was three, her brother was born with a rare form of muscular dystrophy, revealing this diseases presence in her mother’s family of origin. Against all odds, he lived thirteen years with Darcy as one of his greatest advocates. She is honest about how hard it was to be as compassionate toward her mother. She did not want to accept that her mother would die young as well. Darcy had just given birth to her first child when her mother died at age 51.
Darcy wrote her memoir as a way to heal, perhaps the reason many memoirs are written. In the writing, she came to know her mother as a strong woman of faith who courageously chose death rather than a life sustained by machines. Darcy transforms her family’s story into an inspiring one as she names the many gifts she now knows she received from her mother.
Because this disease has touched my family, many memories were triggered as I read Darcy’s story. I could relate to the stress her family lived with and, as one who also does not carry the disease, to the impatience and guilt. I, too, live with the sorrow of what could have been and the knowledge that each day is precious and must be lived to the fullest in the NOW.
Walking Nature Home
In her remarkably-crafted memoir, Walking Nature Home, Susan Tweit recounts the courageous, unconventional path she took after being told in 1980, at the age of twenty-three, she had an autoimmune disease that would likely kill her in two to five years.
Instead of succumbing to the medical establishments prognosis, as a plant eco-biologist, she used her knowledge and intuitive wisdom to allow the rhythms of nature and the constellation of the stars teach her how to live with her illness. She left a marriage that was not healthy for her and found the love of her life. She initiated a move to a small town in Colorado that provided space for she and her beloved could feed their spirits by expressing their artistic passions.
Thirty-six years later, still living in alignment with the healing powers of nature, love, and creativity, she thrives. What is thrilling of me is having her for an online friend and one I will soon meet in person.
A House in the Sky
When the radiance of the human spirit shines through in a transformative way, I am inspired. This is especially true when the transformation happens in the midst of a journey into darkness.
Amanda Lindhout’s memoir is an amazing account of transcending one of the most horrific of life experiences. She actually developed compassion for the Islamic extremists who held her captive for fifteen harrowing months.
Upon her release, she emerged as a sought-after speaker on topics of forgiveness, compassion, and women’s rights. Inspired by a woman who helped her escape, she founded the Global Enrichment Foundation to provide scholarships for Somali women to be able to attend university.
When asked why she did this, she responded, “Because I had something very, very large and very painful to forgive, and by choosing to do that, I was able to put into place my vision, which was making Somalia a better place.” She believes that if her captor’s mothers had such an opportunity for education, they would have treated her differently.